Pilipino Pantry: Local Substitutes
I enjoy cooking. I am not the best at it but I do enjoy it. I love visiting grocery stores and convenience stores in any new country or place we visit just to look at their new-to-me selection. Our first two years in Manila I would go on hunts in search for a specific ingredient or lug back kilos of food from America. Now, having a few more years under my belt I *need little from home (*I do still bring back balikbayan boxes because need is different than want) and don't necessarily go on those exhausting ingredient hunts. These ingredient witch hunts have lead me to local alternatives that can often be even better than what I was originally searching for. It has been a long time coming but I am happy to finally introduce a series titled, 'Pilipino Pantry'. I will be sharing Filipino recipes and ingredient substitutes which will hopefully help some of you out there feel more confident with your cooking and ingredients here in Manila. Pilipino Pantry will be a way for me to embrace Filipino food and ingredients and lend a hand to those who are still on witch hunts for pesky ingredient.
Here are a few of my pantry staples you will regularly find in my cupboards at home.
Dole Pineapple Juice unsweetened is on regular rotation. When you read the ingredient label there are no added sugars as it is purely pineapple juice. It is sweet on it's own and comes in a two pack at most major grocery stores for around 150php I believe. I use this as my sweetener in smoothies with frozen fruit, natures candy I tell ya.
UHT box milk is hard to get used but is seriously THE BEST for making yogurt at home. My friend taught me this easy trick two years ago. I used to boil milk and use a cooking thermometer to prep my milk, not needed with UHT. Make sure your fat contents of the yogurt and milk match up and always use a plain yogurt. Some name brands won't work together so you may need to try different combinations. My homemade yogurt comes out slightly thicker than the store bought. Add 1 tsp of yogurt (I find plain Nestle to be best) to each individual glass jar of milk and stir lightly. Cook overnight and refrigerate until cool.
We are so fortunate to be living in the land of coconut milk/cream (gatas). I use coconut milk as a substitute for probably too many ingredients. I also use it to substitute for nut milks like I did in the photo below with this chia seed pudding. It really thickens the pudding to a firm texture and the flavors are deep and rich. Mix 1/4 C chia seeds, 1 C coconut cream/milk and 1/2 tsp vanilla/honey/syrup/coco nectar. Stir all together and refrigerate overnight. Don't forge to top with the best mangos on the planet.
My biggest pantry secret tip: mango puree unsweetened. For 80-100 php these come in a storage safe plastic bag inside of a heavy duty cardboard box. These make an excellent pasalubong by the way. Mango puree is a great substitute when mangos aren't in season as you just add the contents of the bag with ice and blend. Now, you have an excellent mango smoothie. I put these in my freezer to use in smoothies frozen but it's best use is for fruit leathers. I literally just open the package and squeeze the puree onto my dehydrator sheet, dehydrate for 12 hours and voila, mango fruit leather in three easy steps.
Happy cooking from my Pilipino Pantry to yours.